If I were to list games that truly feel like labours of love, the Lands of Dream series would probably be the first to come to mind. So I’m excited to see that another portal into its world (or point-and-click adventure, for the uninitiated) is nearing completion.
After several delays, the game known as Ithaka Of The Clouds has grown into The Council of Crows [official site]. It’s slated for release in 2016, and it has landed on Steam Greenlight. Meanwhile, The Sea Will Claim Everything [official site], the largest and most polished portal to the Lands so far, has been updated, expanded, and re-released on Steam, free for previous owners. In short: The Steam Will Claim Everything.
You probably know Jonas Kyratzes for contributing his words to The Talos Principle (together with Tom Jubert), or maybe you’ve heard he’s working on Serious Sam 4 with his partner Verena. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know RPS also highlighted quite a few of his games in the past.
For both The Sea Will Claim Everything and The Council of Crows, Verena provided the illustrations, and the excellent Chris Christodolou (Risk Of Rain, Deadbolt) the soundtrack. Jonas did, well, everything else.
The Council of Crows was indiegonegone in 2013, to be released in 6 to 8 months, but health issues, the unexpected work on The Talos Principle, and some new creative ideas meant it became bigger took much longer than planned. Although they more than made up for the delay by giving backers several unexpected gifts. (*)
While I expect the same quality of writing and overall mood – see below – the structure of this portal will be slightly different from its more linear predecessors, trading in expansiveness for some more depth, openness and reactivity in a single area.
“Quite a lot of the game is open: you can do things in more than one order, sometimes even solve problems in more than one way. […] Since this time you’ll be spending so much time in one place, the people of the town will also have a lot more to say to you as the days pass.”
That doesn’t mean that it’ll be small: in fact, they claim it’ll the biggest Lands of Dream game yet.
If you’ve never explored the Lands of Dream, most of the other portals are free, and there’s a demo for the newly re-released The Sea Will Claim Everything. You can read wot Adam Thought about it back in 2012, but here’s the short of it: it’s a gorgeous hand-drawn point-and-click, less about puzzles and more about reading text and dialogues and descriptions, breathing in the world, and empathising with the people and/or anthropomorphised animals.
The Sea Will Claim Everything is light and joyful like a children’s book but it’s also smart, and most importantly, it feels human in a way very few games do. It’s funny, cute and lovely, from the drawings to the fact that you can click on pretty much everything and get a reaction, or a description, or a silly sound. There are hundreds of fungi in it, each and everyone with a unique personality; there are rooms filled with dozens of boxes and books, and every box has different things in it and every book has a title (*) and the writing is so delightful you can end up spending 20 minutes clicking on each of them and giggling, and by the end you feel like the characters are your friends and you’re part of the community and – I’ll stop here or I could go on praising it all day.
The new version will have “an entire additional game’s worth of writing on top of what’s already there,” including new secrets, new bad puns and possibly new good puns, but that it still unconfirmed. You can read something about the design process, and how not to make the game lose its humanity here.
If you’ve already purchased The Sea Will Claim Everything anywhere in the past, you’ll get a steam key for free. Depending on how you purchased it, you may receive it in your email, or you may have to email Jonas personally. You can find all the details here.
[Disclosure: I backed The Council of Crows and Jonas offered backers the chance to be the author of one of those books in the Sea Will Claim Everything, and even choose a title. So, a book in the game should be named after me.]